The Generation Equality Forum Paris has begun

Today, June 30 the long awaited Generation Equality Fourm with the launch of the 6 Action Coalitions, and the Compact on Women Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action has come. While it is 9.30 am in New York it is 3.30 pm in Paris. The Opening Ceremony was very moving, and amid all the glamour, I was hearing of real issues as experienced by real girls and women in very difficult situation in different parts of the world. Girls and girls issues were well covered in the opening ceremony. We also heard of some of the commitment made towards achieving the Action Coalitions.

“Girls should be considered political beings. Girls shouldn’t be invited only for the picture, or the inspirational speech.” Julieta Martinez answerd the question posed by Hilary Clinton and continued “I am Julieta!” “We feel alone!” Julieta, a 17 year old from Chile highlighted the call for girls’ engagment and speaks for girls around the world, who just like her, feel abandoned. Girls know the problems, can and want to be part of the change. Julieta is as passionate and insightful as Hilary Clinton was 26 years ago in Beijing when she uttered that “Human Rights are Women’s Rights and Women’s Rights are Human Rights” but a lot younger! Julieta is a testimony to girl’s agency and recognizes her privilege while indicating that most girls are invisible and don’t have the tools. She recalled Malala, championing eduction for girls – a book and a pen – and I remember Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villaseñor, both girl climate activists in Sweden and New York! The Girls Open Letter to World Leaders English French Spanish is echoing the very same sentiments and Good Shepherd Girls in India and the Philippines were part of the group who penned the letter.

An actress and activist from Burkina Faso, Roukiata Ouedraogo, talked about her own experience of FGM and the regret her mother felt afterwards.  Her mother later became an advocate, setting up mico credit activities with women while establishing an association to eliminate FGM in her village.  Roukiata emphasized that FGM is a patriarchal legacy and an abomination! The eradication of harmful practices, like excision and child marriage requires the education of all!

 Roukiata Ouedraogo addressing Generation Equality Forum in Paris

The strongest call for girls’ education came from a passionate 16 year old, Yande Banda, co-chair of the Transform Education Coalition hosted by the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI). She called for girls’ meaningful representation in key decision-making spaces and ended with a call to World Leaders to stand up! “Stand up for girls’ future, girls’ funding, girls’ education, and ensure that girls are at the table.

Yande Banda calling Member States to Stand Up for Girls’ Education

The recording of the opening of the Forum is livestreamed on UN TV It is in English only and to begin to watch you must move the marker to 01:04:00. What I have referenced above followed the welcome by President Macron of France, and official remarks by the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UN Women who announced a grand total of $40 Billion in new investments towards Gender Equality. $23 billion from the public sector, $4 billion from philanthropic organizations and $13 billion from the private sector. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada said “our government is investing $100 million to support paid and unpaid care work globally. This is a feminist generation and it needs feminist governments to stand with it.”

The President of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker, announces a commitment of $420 million to 5 of the Action Coalitions – GBV, Economic Justice, Technology and Innovation, Bodily Autonomy and SRHR, Feminist Movements and Leadership. Ford Foundatin is also investing in the @BlackFemFund.

The Prime Minister from Finland, Marin Sanna announced a contribution of €150 million in support of Generation Equality in developing countries. Over the five years, Finalnd will work to advance gender equality in Technology and Innovation and SRHR. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany announced that “Germany is actively involved in the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights and will invest additionally €140 million, making a total of around €240 million in the International Action Coalition”

“The Government of Argentina decided to join and co-lead the Global Care Alliance, together with the Mexican Government, to promote comprehensive care systems and develop more inclusive and equal societies.”

The Malala Fund pledged to award $20m in funding to education activisits and to co-create a quality education agenda with girls. The Rockefeller Foundation is investing $30 million in women-owned organizations throughout the Global South and the Open Society Foundation is investing more than $100 million over the next five years. The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) announced a commitment of $500 million over five years to two Action Coalitions: Bodily Autonomy and SRHR and Economic Justice and Rights. PayPal committed more that $100 million to advance financial inclusion and economic empowernment of women and girls. The Gates Foundation committed $2.1 billion to help deliver change.

There appears to be no shortage of resources – my question will any of these resources or the impact of them bring any change to the girls and women who are the furthest behind, in fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda pledge to leave no one behind and of reaching the furthest behind first? I did not hear much if anything of the need for systemic change. Are these ‘feel good funds’ in the face of the terrible attrocities I was reminded of towards the end of the program when Nadia Murad, a Yazidi human rights activist, and Dr Mukwege, a Congolese renowned gynaecologist, surgeon, and founder and director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, came to the the platform. (See marker 3.41) Both shared the Noble Peace Prize in 2018 and each shared on the impacts of sexual violence on girls and women. Habiba Sarabi the woman Afghani negotiator for peace with the Taliban spoke of 10 month of negotiations – the Taliban are bent on re-establishing the old Afghanistan. In areas that the Taliban have captured they issue orders that women cannot leave their home for education or medical care. All the achievements gained for women’s rights are being lost. You can’t negotiate with extremism, she aaid and her final words “Today we are fighting terrorism in our country, but tomorrow it will knock at every door”.

Habiba Sarabi from Afghanistan.

The session began with this quote from Simone de Beauvoir and I will recall it to end this post – “Never forget that a political, economic or religious crisis would suffice to call women’s rights into question.” During the session there were references to the fact that democracy is threatened, people are afraid, there is a backlash against women’s human rights with the rise of Autocracy but this ceremony and event were filled with hope and determination to resist the backlash and fulfill the promise of Gender Equality.